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Downtown’s Reed Whipple Cultural Center to get $45 million makeover

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Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, from left, poses for a photo with Dan Decker, the artistic director of Las Vegas Shakespeare Company, Michael Gill Chairman and CEO of the board of directors for Las Vegas Shakespeare Company, and Las Vegas City Councilman Ricky Barlow during a press conference at the Reed Whipple Cultural Center in Las Vegas on Friday, September 7, 2012.
Photo: Leila Navidi

Las Vegas Shakespeare Company Announcement

The Las Vegas Shakespeare Company has unveiled a $45 million plan to renovate the Reed Whipple Cultural Center in downtown Las Vegas.

The announcement came during the launch of the company’s capital fund drive at the center Friday afternoon.

The expansion of the 50-year-old, 35,000-square-foot building, whose lease was acquired by the group a year ago, will include a 499-seat theater and rehearsal space, a bar and lounge, an art gallery with Opportunity Village, a communal terrace and gardens, and the return of the popular Las Vegas eatery Rosemary’s Café.

The new space is expected to open to the public in a year, joining the recent push toward enhancing the downtown cultural corridor, including renovations to the Neon Museum and the Children’s Museum.

“Our goals are not just to create a great regional theater but a destination beyond theater for the community,” said Michael Gill, president and chairman of the board of the company.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who, in a theatrical bejeweled crown and with a wand as “the fairy god-mayor,” described the new center as “a jewel doing nothing but enhancing our city.”

“When we arrived here in ’64, this was a cultural wasteland,” she said. “To bring us to this point in development, there is nothing but a beautiful, beautiful future. How this has been planned and how this is being designed...is a huge leap.”

The company is taking steps to become Nevada’s first member of the League of Resident Theaters, a national organization of nonprofit professional theater production companies dedicated to working within regulated financial standards and hiring union employees, including directors, actors, designers and choreographers.

The new center also means a permanent home for the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company, which has been performing and producing theater in Southern Nevada since 2008. Its most popular productions, including Shakespeare in the Park and spring children’s musicals, have been based in venues around Henderson.

“LVSC has always been a wonderful partner with the City of Henderson in bringing great quality entertainment to our community,” Henderson Mayor Andy Hafen said. “We know that this expansion and a permanent home will mean more fantastic productions.”

Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow, who represents Ward 5, where the facility is located, praised the company for bringing a family friendly community destination to the area.

“The cultural corridor is really about connecting community, and what better way to do that than to connect all races of people and all ages of people through culture. The Shakespeare Company is doing just that,” he said.

Most unexpected with the renovation is the return of Summerlin’s storied Rosemary’s Café, which closed in July 2011 because of the economic downturn.

The French eatery will feature favorites such as barbecued shrimp in a relaxed outdoor terrace environment.

“We were ultimately motivated to come back to be part of something that shares our cultural values,” said head chef and owner Michael Jordan, who relocated to Seattle with his family after the restaurant closed. “This town is growing up. The community wants a center like this. It’s ready for it.”

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Andrea Domanick is a reporter covering arts, entertainment and the behind the scenes stories of life in Las Vegas. Before ...

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